Things to do in Cornwall with young children: How to pack in the fun at Dairyland, Llama Land, Camel Creek, Padstow Sea Safaris and Hengar Manor

Whizzing across the waves, careering along the Cornish coast, the engine on the boat revs noisily as the powerful vessel thuds rhythmically on top of the blue sea.

By Tom Morton
Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 3:27 pm

The picturesque harbour town of Padstow diminishes behind our backs as we set off in search of the magical.

As soon as we are out of the harbour, the captain puts his foot to the floor, and we are flying, heading to unspoilt nature reserve islands to spot puffins, seals and - if we are lucky - dolphins.

Thankfully luck is on our side today, as is the British weather, and we spot all three, plus plenty of other wondrous wildlife.

Watching dolphins from a boat run by Padstow Sealife Safaris in Cornwall

Three generations of our family are on the trip, run by Padstow Sealife Safaris, and the wonder of magnificent Cornish nature in its natural habitat is as enthralling for the four-year-old as it is for the septuagenarian.

As we cruise off the coast of Tintagel, the captain gets a radio message. A distant voice crackles, we make out a muttering about dolphins.

A pod of dolphins, about 20 in total, is swimming next to our fellow sea safari boat. Our engine cuts. The waves slap the slide and everyone takes in a collective breath.

We cautiously creep closer, eagerly anticipating a glimpse or two.

Rosanna Morton strokes guinea pigs at Dairyland in Cornwall

We see the magnificent creatures from afar. At first just a tiny fin pops up. Or was that a splash? We squint harder and will the pod to come nearer.

Dolphins are intelligent creatures, and in this case they may even be mind readers, as before long our boat is surrounded. They glide beautifully alongside us, playfully swimming under the boat and popping up the other side, their smooth fins glistening in the warm Cornish sun.

We are in for a real treat too as among the pod are babies, their tiny fins appearing a millisecond after the adults. It’s truly heart-warming and we feel so lucky to be able to see such spectacular nature right here in the UK.

And nature in Cornwall is in abundance. We’ve left our home city with its noisy streets and hustle-bustle behind us, a four-hour drive away to be precise. We stay at Hengar Manor, a holiday park right in the middle of Cornwall, the nearest town being Bodmin. The route that our sat nav takes us involves pleasingly tiny lanes, winding past picture-perfect villages, and rolling fields under blue skies. We really do feel like we are getting away from it all (although we learn the next day that there is a way in and out that doesn’t involve lanes that are only one-car wide - perhaps the sat nav was just showing us the scenic way there), and that atmosphere continues at Hengar Manor. It is a holiday park, but it’s far less so than other holiday parks that we’ve been to before - it’s not as cramped as caravan parks can feel (and there are also several families of ducklings waddling around which fact alone would give it a five-star rating on a Trip Advisor for two-year-olds…). Better still, to our delight we find that we are staying in a lodge, which is basically a three-bedroom house.

Camel Creek Adventure Park near Wadebridge, Cornwall

There are the usual attractions of a holiday park, such as a swimming pool, a shop and a bar - with the addition of tennis courts and a golf course - and it all feels terribly civilised.

The swimming pool is very important, as we’re on a mission this week. If we’re to have any kind of grown-up type break - ie more than 120 minutes to ourselves in the evening - then we need to exhaust the children. So Operation Knacker’Em commences.

We’re here Monday to Friday, but end up by good fortune staying with relatives over the weekend, so are able to make the most of our Monday, too. We head down to Land’s End, keen to see the sights. We’re there in the day, and the weather isn’t great, but there are plenty of things to do including immersive cartoon films (a pirate one complete with shaking seats and spray is almost too realistic for the children) and the sedate fun of a small farm 100 yards or so along the coast path. I decide I’d like to watch the orange sun go down at Land’s End one day, preferably with a beer and a peaceful evening, but that’s not happening this holiday. It’s a slight surprise to see that you have to pay to have your picture taken next to the famous sign, but it’s still exciting to see it – and Land’s End itself is a wonderful setting.

On Tuesday we head to Dairyland Farm Park, which is not far from Newquay.

Llama Tom at Llama Land in Shortlanesend, near Truro, Cornwall

This really is child heaven; there are fields to walk through, big animals (cows and llamas) to look at, small animals (rabbits and guinea pigs) to stroke, a trampoline park, a huge soft play barn, sandpits with diggers you can ride on, tractor go-karts…. the list is almost endless. We watch the meerkats, stroke a snake, and then watch the cows coming in to be milked in the afternoon. We’re there for hours – fortified by a tasty lunch in the cafe – and could have been there for much longer, too. It’s a definite hit. It’s wholesome fun, but fun nonetheless, and we’re surrounded by smiling families for the duration of our visit.

On Wednesday we’re over to Llama Land, which is on a farm in Shortlanesend, towards Truro. It’s run by Llama Tom who loves his llamas – he talks about them as if they are family, and you can see why, as they slowly display their personality. After a chat about the llamas to the group who are there for this session, we take one each – in our case, one between four as we suspect the children will not be as obedient as the llamas, and sadly we are proved right – and go for a walk along a path in the farm.

There’s something both very exciting and very relaxing about walking a llama. They stop to nibble at hedgerows, and from the glint in their eye you wonder whether they are just playing up for the newbie llama walker. But they are very well behaved, and all return to their barn with the minimum of fuss (unlike the children, who insist on a sit-down and a drink half-way round). After the walk we all repair to a different section of the barn and have a lovely home-made lunch - a charming way to round off a wonderful experience.

So far, so good - the kids are pleasingly docile in the evenings, and the following day we have a real ace up our sleeve.

We take them to Camel Creek - probably best described as Alton Towers for four-year-olds. There are rides aplenty, all free to go on once you’ve paid the entry fee, and our eldest is in seventh heaven. Big chairoplanes? Yes. Pirate ship? Yes. Teacup spinners? Yes. Rollercoasters, mini log flume, tall slides, a Pony Express horse ride? Yes, yes, yes, yes. The four-year-old thinks this is the best place he has ever been to, although the one-year-old is a bit out of her depth. Fortunately she has lots of animals to look at, ranging from miniature crocodiles to guinea pigs, and meerkats to fish, so she finds plenty of things to occupy her time. We visit before restrictions fully lift and so some areas are not open, but even so it’s a totally fun-packed day, with just the right amount of adrenaline for pre- and primary-schoolers.

Our final excursion, on the day that we leave, is the boat trip. Suffice to say it’s a magical conclusion to a wonderful week.

Camel Creek Adventure Park

Most of us are staying at home this summer out of travel restriction necessity, but for some of us a foreign holiday even in another year would have been a logistical and financial impossibility. A nice idea in principle, but do you really want to be that parent of that child, the one who has a fearful tantrum just as the plane lifts off the Tarmac, and won’t calm down until beyond baggage collection? Not me. I’m happy. And our Cornish week has shown that, in the words of the old railway advert, you really should see your own country first.

Camel Creek Adventure Park